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Malibu Wine Safari Accused of Booking Tours During Pandemic and Pocketing the Money

Plus, Lettuce Feast’s GoFundMe, more on Hollywood’s plant-based meatballs, and inside the Apple Pan’s coronavirus changes

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McKenzie Westmore and Patrick Tatopoulos Wedding Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

A number of customers have begun to accuse beach-adjacent day-drinking stop Malibu Wine Safari, known for its upscale wilderness appeal and actual giraffe named Stanley, of failing to follow through on booked and paid-for wine tours over the past year or so. In short, these customers say that the Saddlerock Ranch company that runs the safari wine excursion took money for bookings that never happened, in part because of the pandemic, and have yet to offer customer refunds when asked.

ABC-7 located dozens of people who purchased wine tasting-wildlife packages, even though the grounds were closed throughout the pandemic. ABC-7 reports that one person booked a wine safari in July for a September bachelorette party, but was offered a voucher for a hike or bike tour. She spent $900, but says she cannot get a refund from company. Numerous Yelp reviews show numerous customer complaints who bought tours in March 2020, who also say they cannot secure a refund.

Malibu Wine Safari’s troubles extend beyond the refunds. The Semler family — who owns both Malibu Wine Safari and Saddlerock Ranch — has also had their famous giraffe seized by California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Stanley is being held “in place” because of the logistical challenges of transporting a giraffe. The agency alleges Malibu Wine Safari never obtained the required county permits to operate a business with wild animals.

In other news:

  • The Los Angeles Times captured the Apple Pan’s transition during the pandemic, including the use of credit cards for the first time in its 74 year history.
  • Restaurant Dive interviewed Lucques Group co-founder Caroline Styne about California’s state and local response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Los Angeles Magazine profiled Sardinia-born Mauro and Sergio Corbia on their new plant-based restaurant on Sunset near Vine, Brothers Meatballs. The brothers also co-founded Mauro’s Cafe at Fred Segal on Melrose and co-own Fabiolus Cucina.
  • Coastal city Carpinteria is recovering well from the economic impact of COVID-19. According to KEYT, local residents supporting local businesses was a key factor.
  • Massimo Bottura’s Beverly Hills Gucci Osteria has reopened for lunch and dinner service. Most of the restaurant is situated on an outdoor terrace, and there’s some new menu items available.
  • Popular food truck Lettuce Feast launched a GoFundMe after the truck caught fire on March 6. The entire structure was destroyed, and owners Willie Perrymon and Eva Cannon hope to open a brick-and-mortar or a second truck with the funds. So far, the pair raised almost $45,000. Meanwhile longtime Black-owned bar the Living Room has also started a GoFundMe to try to stay afloat after having been closed for more than a year.